For most of us the holiday season is one of the best times of the year. It’s also one of the most productive times for burglars, thieves and other rip-off artists to ply their trade. While it makes good sense to be on your guard all year around, it’s especially important during the holidays since when you’re out shopping you may become a perfect target for those unscrupulous individuals looking to separate you from your valuables.

Besides being ultra-vigilant when you’re driving around town or parking at the mall you should also be exercising extra caution regarding the security of your home. Burglars know you’re likely to have valuables in the way of gifts at home and will target your residence if it looks like they can get in and out without getting caught.

Consider incorporating these tips to help protect your family and possessions during this holiday season.

  1. Always lock your car with the windows rolled up, both when you’re parked and when driving. Try to shop during daylight hours but if you can’t, make sure to park in a well-lit, conspicuous area. Park as close as possible to your destination and make note of exactly where you parked.
  2. When returning to your vehicle, have your keys in your hand so you won’t have to fumble around for them. Keep all valuables hidden from view, preferably locked in the trunk. Don’t go to your car if you see suspicious-looking people lurking nearby. If you’re uncomfortable, ask a store or mall security guard to escort you to your car.
  3. If you need to use an ATM try to find one indoors in a well-lit, safe area. Guard your PIN from onlookers. Only withdraw the amount of cash you require. Hold on to your receipt.
  4. Pay for purchases with checks or your credit card if possible. Don’t carry large amounts of cash and keep your money in a front pocket. Don’t carry a purse or wallet if possible and leave your expensive jewelry at home when out shopping.
  5. Keep windows and doors in your home locked at all times. If you leave for the holidays make sure your alarm is set and ask a neighbor to watch your house and collect your mail and newspapers. Put your lights and television or radio on timers. Make your house look like somebody’s home. Finally, make sure your homeowners and auto insurance are up-to-date.